A Man’s Bonfire

A Man’s Bonfire

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There’s something about fires that attract a man’s attention. Most men look forward to winter burning, when they clean up the brush in the yard. They proudly stand in front of the licking orange flames, while the roaring beast lives.

This man waited all summer for this burn. Once snow covered the ground, he was itching to light up the pile. A little enthusiastic pyromaniac wanted to set it ablaze. Comparable to many New England men, he will be satisfied with its flames.

Tom waited until the afternoon faded into dusk, stacking the old wood into a teepee. It was clean up time and a chance to dispose of timber from our torn down shed. A gigantic gnarly tree stump laid in the pile of wood as well.

He said it wouldn’t be easy to burn, as all the wood was wet from snow cover. It took a few minutes to take and gradually it started to crackle and hiss, as gray smoke arose. As the fire grew, people in cars slowly inched by to stare. Popping sparks danced in the air and whistled , flying up and up. Suddenly the sparks extinguished and black soot flakes fell down into the snow. We stood gazing at the glowing mass and heard sizzling within the depths of the fire. As we enjoyed the bonfire, we didn’t mention that it’s source was our old shed. If I had pondered over this, a relief would arise as our shed had seen better days and it was time to demolish it.

Smoke plummeted towards the tallest trees. The bonfire was good and productive. The man slept as soundly as could be that night, as the fire coals lost their glow and smoldered. The visiting deer would stay away, not knowing what this spectacle was.

The next morning this man sipped his coffee, while eyeing the ash pile out the window. After breakfast he gathered his hat and gloves and proudly announced he will burn again. Hours later I watched from my window and noticed his friend, Mike was helping throw the wood in the fire, as Tom worked his rusty chainsaw. He needed to cut the long awkward boards into smaller, manageable pieces for a better burn. I was happy for Tom to have his friend’s help and the company. As they worked they chatted. It looked like they were having a good time.

Once again red hot flames curled up with heavy smoke. As noon approached, I made them a lunch of roast beef cheese melt sandwiches, pasta salad, and chips. We talked about different things, our kids, our houses and heating bills. Then it was time for them to go back out and check the fire.

By early afternoon the fire sizzled with short controlled flames. Mike left for home and Tom thanked him for his help. It had been another great bonfire, beautiful to look at and warm to stand by. In the spring the ashes and soot will be raked up, exposing the grassy ground once more. All that will be left is the memory of the blazing bonfire on the cold winter days of January.

All my Best,

Heart and Soul ❤️

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Starry Sky

Starry Sky

There is a mystical and tranquil place I have recently discovered. While standing there, all life’s stresses dwindle away, as if all that exists is a quiet peace. Here I gaze and dream. Here I wonder what my place is in the world and the universe. As simple as it seems, it’s right in our bedroom. There’s a lone window calling us to the celestial world.

When I took night classes a few winters ago, I would roll in my driveway about 9:30, long after many people’s bedtime. The first time I did this, I was pretty tired and not crazy about driving alone at night. But as I ducked out of our car, the night sky winked at me with millions of twinkling lights, bathed in pure beautiful darkness. Clutching my school bag, I hesitated and looked up. It could have been just as easy to hurry inside to put my books away, but the attractive sky was calling to me, as if to say, “Look here and enjoy.” So I did.

Many winter nights I peek at this glorious sight. Most of the time I quickly find Orion the hunter, especially the stars in his belt. Stars glisten and twinkle, luring me in to escape and experience this heavenly sight.

The other night I finished doing supper dishes, when Tom mentioned how brilliant the stars were. He invited me to our window. We stood in our dark bedroom in front of our window, spooking Dylan because he asked, “What are you guys doing?” Tom opened it up, letting in cold winter air. But it felt exhilarating as we were completely enveloped in the celestial moment. Countless stars lit the coal black sky. Tall pines trees line our outer yard, their silhouette painted against a starry canvas. The majestic hundred foot pine stands guard, reaching towards the heavens.

It’s as serene as you can get out your window. I can’t imagine not living this moment, for my soul would miss it. If I hadn’t started looking up, I would have missed living these special moments. If you haven’t bothered spying the sky, try it soon. Winter is supposed to be the ideal time for star gazing. A clear, cold night will produce optimum viewing.

All my Best,

Heart and Soul ❤️

 

A Fantastic Memory: New Year’s Eve

 

Tom and I always stay home on New Year’s Eve. We are comfy staying at home, while savoring a nice dinner or take-out food with a special dessert. Instead of living it up at a restaurant or party, we choose to do it at home, especially since it’s winter. This year I thought it would be nice for Branden to have his friends overnight. After giving it some thought, he decided it was a good idea and the planning began.

The last few years we’ve bought scratch tickets for everyone in our family. Let me explain… A few years ago I was shopping for New Year’s Eve appetizers when I passed a winding line of women at the courtesy desk. Some were my age, others retirement age and then there was a twenty year old. All of us represented each generation and probably celebrated New Years differently. The one thing everyone had in common was their lottery ticket purchases. I stopped out of curiosity, browsing at the various choices. As I watched one happy go lucky woman pocket her stack of “winners”, I envisioned every family member scratching his own ticket to bring in a new promising year. Besides St. Patrick’s day, my thought is that a new year can be lucky and there are many positive possibilities of starting fresh. I bought our tickets and our lucky New Year’s tradition was born. This year Dylan and Lexie won $19. I recall we only won $6 but that’s better then nothing!

The big day rolled around and we were ready. Branden cleaned his room, borrowed our huge television and set up cushions together for bedding. The chips and snacks and a couple of cases of soda (which I only buy on special occasions) filled my kitchen counter. In the late afternoon, the triplets pulled in our driveway. They are nice kids and from a nice family. They are juniors and first met Branden in the Gamesters club at school. The two boys worked on making video games with Branden and they entered their work together in the NH State Technology Student Association conference. Their sister drove them over and was staying for awhile and then was leaving later.

Branden’s group of 8 to 9 friends nicknamed themselves “the squad”. This eclectic bunch of extremely smart kids, are computer know it alls. They meet every few weeks at the movies, at someone’s house and in the parking lot after school. I bet anytime they meet, there’s always young laughter, brilliant collaboration with video games and simple friendships. They all have a good time whatever they do!

During the whoops of joy, I couldn’t help feeling that maybe this was the last time our son would celebrate the new year here. In a few short weeks he will be 18 years old and there will be many more life experiences ahead of him, away from Landaff. He’ll leave with his memories and build a new life elsewhere. Of course I’m excited for him and truly want him to, but a thought lingers that this it. No more midnight toasts of Ginger Ale or special menus he would enjoy. The little tow head boy has emerged into a grown man. No more tucking him in or reading to him on my lap.

The night was still young for the teens, as we old farts went to bed by 9:00, sleepily and content. Loud cheering and laughing seeped under Branden’s bedroom door. For us, it’s not important to count down to a new year anymore. As middle aged adults, it means much more to count our blessings and to be grateful for the wonderful things that took place in 2015. We express our hopeful expectations for the coming year.

For a few years we went to bed and I set the screeching alarm to wake us up at 11:45. Tom and I would go to bed early and awaken to have a midnight toast with our sons. A popped cork flew in the air and champagne bubbled when poured. Ginger Ale sparkled in crystal wine glasses. Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year was booming on the tv screen, while we waited for the flashy ball’s descent. At the stroke of midnight, our family toasted to our unexpected joys, while forgetting whatever hardships had visited us. It was an annual ritual for mom to choke back tears during this occasion. Crying in happiness and joy, I can’t mask my deep emotions well. With all this gratefulness, it’s difficult to not wonder if our life is too good to be true and if the coming year will burst our bubble.

Unlike past years, we slept this year. As life marches on, the important things change. There wasn’t a toast, tears or a hopeful speech and that’s okay! The bubbly was poured into mimosas the following day well before the late hour.

In the early hours of 2016, I woke to brilliant sunlight blazing through our windows. While wrapped in a thick granny like robe, I threw together chocolate chip pancakes,set the table, and did the cooking dishes all before Branden and his friends stirred. They were all conked out, perhaps from staying up until 4. Tom said when he woke up at that time the crew was still talking in hushed tones. They fought sleep as long as they could manage, their eyelids grew heavy and the sandman hung over them until they finally gave in, just as I did with my friends long ago.
After devouring stacks of buttered pancakes dripping with syrup, the kids gathered all their overnight bags and tightly rolled sleeping bags, all the while still laughing. As I stacked the dishes and quietly cleared the table, outside the squad started up their vehicles. Rev, rev, rev…..the same thing they do in the school parking lot. They all stood around talking and laughing heartily while one or two kids sit in their cars and rev the engines.

Piling dishes in the dishwasher , I noticed how the triplets were standing around and one of the boys were staring at their friend’s muffler. One of the boys stooped down under the car. More laughing continued as I really started to wonder what they were all staring at. More crazy laughter. I am a nosy mom so I kept watch from my frosty kitchen window and I tried to figure out what was going on. Finally I opened the door a crack and asked Branden what was under the car.
“Well, nothing to worry about, mom. There’s a few blow horns in Chan’s muffler.” “What?!? ”

When you mix multiple cans of soda, staying up all night and a few paper new year horns, this is the ending result. A finale to their celebration and a priceless memory….when the wild brother of the triplets stuffs the tooters in the car muffler to see what would happen and they get sucked up in.
The next few minutes I was trying to convince my husband to check it out and to make sure they could get those cheap paper horns out of Chan’s muffler. He didn’t think it was a big deal until probably a half hour passed and nothing had changed. When Chan turned his car ignition off, it sucked up the horns, like a forceful vacuum cleaner. Eventually Toms curiosity got the best of him and knowing that he had more knowledge of cars, he grabbed his heavy brown jacket and ventured into the cold.

All the squad was still staring at the car back end, while Tom was looking and laughing too. One teen was stooping down doing something. Tom got an old clothes hanger, bent it to the right shape and they siphoned the blowhorns from the depths of the pipe. Phew! That was a close one! Laughing faded away as the squad jumped in their vehicles. A quiet house rested from the pandemonium of the night before. Our cats slept in earnest, as we cleaned up the soda cans and heaped them in the recycle bin. I smiled and thought what a fantastic memory it was for Branden and us too.

All my Best,

Heart and Soul ❤️

Tom’s Squirrel Patrol

 

 

When you commit to a home renovation project, there are many factors to consider. The obvious ones are having enough time and money for what needs to be done. Another imperative consideration is the vast amount of patience needed to spend months and possibly years on the project. The last challenge that brings the most conflict ( in my opinion) is when the house sits vacant and there is a possibility of sneaky, opportunistic critters moving in…

Eight months ago, when we prepared to move in our new home, my husband and I found a few acorn nuts in a corner of the living-room. It was an awkward moment, when I stepped on them and performed a very ungraceful pirouette, landing on scattered tools. Amid the upset tools were various pine boards and a box of very long nails. Surprisingly we quickly dismissed the presence of house guests because it would have thrown a wrench in our timely plan of moving in! Although we both knew there was exterior work ahead, we thought the house would be fine for the time being.

A few summer months passed by…one night a haunting, scratchy noise violated my deep sleep. My thoughts were that a mouse or two were lurking behind the walls and that our trusty mouser, Smokey would take care of them. During a quiet breakfast the next morning, I told Tom of the suspicious noises and he brushed it off. He was sure it was a mouse.

Days were progressively becoming crisper as summer transitioned into fall. The days were hosted with vibrant sunshine and cool nights brought wispy smoke stretching from chimneys. Chipmunks and gray squirrels hurriedly scampered around our yard, gathering their nuts for the long winter. The lush vegetable garden was no longer vivacious but frosted and tired. A dead plant odor hung in the air as well as rotted squashes thrown in the compost. Tom and I cleaned up and put it to bed in silence, as the scurrying chipmunks and squirrels went about their hoarding. We were all preparing for winter, but in very contrasting ways.

While we settled in one night and watched television, there was flitting, rustling movements above us. It almost sounded like there was an apartment of people upstairs. At one point, Tom and I stared at the ceiling in disbelief. Imagine hearing something running about, rolling nuts in between the floors. What wild creature would possibly be leaving the woods and setting up shop in our attic and between our floors? Flying Squirrels. Little reddish brown furry squirrels that resemble the size of a chipmunk and goggle like eyes popping out.

Christmas vacation came along, bringing a once a year energy! There was excitement in the air, as we trimmed our full Christmas tree and Tom’s mom visited from Florida. The puttering and scrambling was long forgotten and we settled in for the holiday festivities.

In the middle of the night, I awoke to a clanging eruption in our kitchen and reluctantly decided to investigate. Padding down the soft carpet, sleep lingered and I couldn’t wait to retire back to our flannel bedding made up like a hibernation nest. Suddenly another loud bang arose from the far end of our kitchen and our skittish older cat, Katy, raced around the corner with fear. I flicked on the kitchen light, curious now of what was going on! Smokey had to be involved, for he is our trusty night patrolman and prowls the downstairs at night, in search of any prey in his path.

What happened next triggered a hysterical EEK from my inner gut! I discovered Smokey wildly chasing a wild rodent of some sort with a big bushy tail across my kitchen floor! I ran upstairs with as much vigor as a seasoned marathon runner! Needless to say Tom and my mother-in-law jumped out of  their slumber and Tom flew down the stairs to investigate. It took a few minutes but he trapped it and we all trudged back to bed.

What nerve these house guests had! I know they must have resided here long before we moved in, but it was time for an EVICTION NOW! Just the thought of flying squirrels in the attic and walls made me squeamish. It’s not that I was scared of them but they are wild and rodent like. Sharing our space with critters sent chills up my spine in a bad way.

Weeks have gone by since the first exciting and eery encounter. Tom and Dylan set up havahart traps in our attics, pretty confident in their trapping ability. Days passed with not a spring, even with peanut butter to entice the squirrels. Then one early weekday morning I sat quietly meditating and drinking my first cup of coffee. A steaming cup on my placemat and twinkling white lights lit above the cupboards made a peaceful setting, yet not for long! Suddenly I heard a clattering up in Dylan’s room and frantic running down the stairs. Around the corner plunged Smokey with a flying squirrel dangling from his mouth! Oh no and Tom had left for work 45 minutes earlier! What I would do? There may be a few brave women out there, who would problem solve and capture the squirrel or remove it from the cats mouth. I am not one of those women. After a call to Tom’s work, he showed up with canvas gloves on and handling a small cooler to catch the critter. Thank goodness for a strong, kind husband and his understanding boss!

Now we didn’t want to harm the squirrels and ideally we planned to avoid that altogether. Sometimes things just don’t go as arranged and the last resort is upon you and there is no other choice. A visit to the trusty hardware store and $20 later, Tom and I held a paper bag of wooden rat traps with huge springs, loud enough to really cause a ruckus. Baiting them with creamy peanut butter and sliding them ever so cautiously between the floors, we waited. Within 5 minutes we heard a vicious snap! Five minutes later another loud crack and our population was two less. We thought there were two or three left scampering about.

Snap, snap, snap! Would you believe after a month of diligent trapping and releasing, Tom has caught not two or three, but twenty four flying squirrels! There were times that’s all Tom did after work was check traps, unload them and start the vicious cycle again. He kept a tally on a scrap piece of paper, every time he caught one.

The entire Landaff flying squirrel population flocked here in seek of shelter and we can’t fathom how they found us or how long they stayed. It’s much quieter and serene here now. The only scampering heard now is of two grown cats and sometimes a teenager upstairs on his exercise bike. In the spring Tom and Dylan will patch up the gaping part of our house, shutting out winter visitors. I’m sure we will be telling this story for years to come, but I hope it’s the ending. Eek!

 

 

 

 

The Smile Project 😀

 

The Smile Project

I haven’t always smiled. When I was a young child, I mastered the scowl pretty well. If you questioned my mom, she would say I was special and an emotional child. It’s not that my life wasn’t great but inside, I felt lost and sad. It took me a very long time to know myself and what makes me truly happy. If I could change anything in those lost but not forgotten years, I would take my high school teacher’s encouragement to smile more often.

My younger sister, Barb, gave me sage advice a few years ago that has stayed in my heart. She spoke of the necessity to always wake up with a smile, even if you don’t really feel it inside. Her reasoning is that if you keep doing this eventually it will come naturally and you’ll feel the happiness. Barb accounted the times when she proudly marched through the motions at work with a smile. She worked in a chaotic hospital doctor’s practice and there were times she just didn’t feel like smiling constantly, yet she persevered with a positive attitude.

When I first heard this, I pondered the notion deeply. I wasn’t confident that a manufactured fake smile beat a genuine frown, because anything fake isn’t real and true. Would I overcome the dreadful blues one day and plaster on a gritty grin ,when inside I would be boiling with other emotions? How would I generate a smile during the toughest day of my period? Could I smile when deadlocked in a chain of heaping grocery carts on a hectic afternoon? The answer is yes….absolutely and I’ll tell you that it works!

After my deep conversation with my sister, I decided to go through my days and simply observe smiling people. Most of the time we go through the motions of life, too busy to notice details such as a smile. The first day of strict observations, I noticed how beautiful people were while sporting a smile. A warm, loving feeling filled my insides, overflowing of kindness for others. It’s amazing how a toothy grin  leads to not only goodness, but fosters a human connection. We are all in this together and if we just smile and stay positive, we can accomplish great things.

This project continues everyday at home, in public venues and at work. I smile and hug my husband when he comes home tired from work and listen to my sons with a warm expression. In public I’ve noticed how strangers reciprocate a grin back and even sometimes chat a little. On a extremely busy day picture me in the crowded grocery line with cramped carts lining the check out area. The store employees rush around and attend to customers ,while baggers bag in sync with the cashier’s scanning and managers nonchalantly walk through the chaos. Disgruntled, impatient shoppers cuss about the line and how they should’ve come on this excursion another day. The frustrated middle-aged cashier with chestnut brown long wavy hair, didn’t seemed thrilled with her day. Once I reached her and hurriedly placed my stash of groceries on the conveyor belt, I felt the need to cheer her up. I smiled and freely passed on positive vibes. She immediately smiled back and relayed to me that it had been a stressful day. After I paid my bill and proceeded through the line, I sincerely wished her well with the rest of the day. I also hoped the older couple behind me would treat her kindly.

There have been times that I’ve forgotten this advice and strayed from this, but I started living it again a few months ago. My true intention is to continue doing this with God’s help. This small town wife and mom feels as if she’s made a difference! It’s been a wonderful journey and challenge to smile and spread goodwill to all people I may encounter. I’ve made acquaintances in the grocery store, reached out to people at work who I wouldn’t have before and targeted just about anyone who I have eye contact with! The smile project has developed into not only an act of goodwill but has fostered my self-esteem and overall well being. It feels as good as helping a friend in need or taking care of my family.

The next step in this profound journey is to spread the great news! A beautiful beam will change your day and your outlook on life. Instead of viewing everything with a cloudy negative vision, flex those facial muscles and stay strong with a positive purpose. When a friend or family member is down and in need, pass on the smile and you will reap endless rewards! Smile inside and out, knowing in your heart that whatever obstacle or happy milestone you reach, you’re prepared with a smile.

All my best,

Heart and Soul ❤️